Friday, 14 April 2017

Tories plan to cut bus passes ............ Labour pledge to fight to keep them

The Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association (LGA) has stated that the way to help fund council services is to end free bus passes for pensioners. The LGA Chair is Lord Gary Porter of Spalding and in an interview earlier this year he proposed that councils could save money if the right to travel free on buses was withdrawn from pensioners. He later claimed:

"............ It would still encourage people to use busses and allow companies to generate cash".

source: Huffington Post

Free bus passes for the over 60's were introduced in 2007 by the Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown and benefited 11 million people. It was also a welcome boost for hard pressed bus companies with, by 2014,  £2.3 billion of central government subsidies being made available, administered by local authorities such as Derbyshire County Council. (2014/15, subsidies in the UK were £2.3 billion, made up of £826 million for London, £516 million for metropolitan areas outside London and £951 million for non-metropolitan areas such as Derbyshire).

Unfortunately, in line with the pushing back of the pension age the bus pass is gradually changing and by 2020 will be available for those reaching the pension age of 66. This change has saved the treasury over £200 million a year. The Tory plan to cut back even further would mean taking away from pensioners even more. Tories plan to cut back pensioner benefits whilst using that money to fund tax cuts to the wealthy .............. such as the £400 cut in tax per year for those earning between £45,000 and £100,000 which was a measure in the last Tory budget ............ and there are so many more examples.

If you want to bore into the facts about the bus pass scheme then this is a good place to start - the Greener Journeys group analysis of free bus passes. I urge you to click on this link to read this paper which highlights the fact that:

For every £1 spent we gain a benefit to our society and economy of £2.87.

"Half of the benefits accrue directly and immediately to concessionary travellers themselves, around 20% of the benefits to other bus passengers and other road users from transport network improvements, and the rest to the wider community from wider economic and social impacts and in particular from improvements in health and wellbeing".............. I am quoting directly from the Greener Journeys paper I linked to above.

Note that an appraisal of commercial benefits such as increased shopping on local high streets or visits to local attractions has not been included so the benefits could be much higher. I note that nationally, 54% of free bus pass journeys are made to go shopping and the money saved on bus tickets is available to be spent in those shops. The boost to the local economy is undeniable.

Without the wider commercial benefits this translates as a cost/benefit ratio of 2.87. Compare that with the cost/benefit ratio of the new railway scheme between London & Birmingham, HS2 which has dipped below 1.5 and does include wider commercial benefits ............. investment in bus passes for elderly and disabled  gives a much better return. We should ask why Tories propose ending concessionary bus passes but still actively promote HS2 when investment in bus services gives a return that is twice as good as the HS2.

Three Labour council candidates pledge to keep bus passes and winter fuel allowance
John Porter (Horsley), Clr John Owen (Belper), Jyoti Wilkinson (Alport & Derwent)
Carol Angharad (Duffield & Belper South), unfortunately not on the photo shares this pledge

Thanks to Cheryl Pidgeon for the photograph
The number of pensioners (65 and over) that would be affected by these Tory proposals living in the 4 Derbyshire electoral divisions being contested by these 4 Labour candidates are:

Alport & Derwent - 3,148 (27% of the 11,523 electorate)
Belper - 1,997 (17% of the 11,673 electorate)
Duffield & Belper South - 2,673 (23% of the 11,805 electorate)
Horsley - 2,801 ( 22% of the 12,552 electorate)

Plus the number of younger disabled folk who are eligible for a free bus pass. More research would be necessary to unearth that figure.

Source :Observatory Derbyshire

In conclusion

There is only one way to ensure that free bus passes are not cut by the Tories and that is to vote Labour in the elections on May 4th. This will send a strong message to Lord Porter of Spalding and Derbyshire Tories that free bus passes must not be cut. You will know that you have elected a Labour County Council that pledges to keep them.

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